NEW YORK -- "People love pickles," says Leigh Altshuler, owner of Sweet Pickle Books. "And books are the same thing; the combination of those two exceeded my wildest dream for people showing up for things," she explains.
Sweet Pickle Books opened in 2020 and is the brainchild of Altshuler, an avid reader and former employee of the landmark Strand Book Store. "I've always loved books and I grew up reading books, loving books, loving bookstores, and libraries, and I knew one day it was a dream of mine to open my own bookstore," she says, "but it felt impossible in New York City to have this place."
When Altshuler lost her job during the pandemic, she was inspired to follow her dream despite the odds and challenges. "I would go on walks around my neighborhood around the Lower East Side and I would look at all the empty storefronts," says Altshuler, "and before I knew it, I was signing a lease, doing all these things I had no idea how to do, designing a store." A few months later, Sweet Pickle Books opened.
"I sell used books because I love them," says Altshuler. "There are so many writers that are almost like endangered species, at risk of being forgotten, and used book shops are kind of like their last warriors," she explains of her desire to forgo selling new books.
Altshuler's dream had always been to sell books in addition to something else; she settled on pickles as a way of paying homage to her Jewish heritage and the Lower East Side location of her shop, which used to house the pickle district of NYC. The bookstore currently offers three kinds of craft pickles, all made uniquely for Sweet Pickle Books using Altshuler's own recipes. Visitors can bring their old books and trade them for a jar of pickles of their choosing.
According to Altshuler, making this dream of hers come true has been more rewarding than she ever expected. "Being a small business owner is so meaningful to me for so many reasons and it's so rewarding, more than anything I could have ever imagined," she says. "Every day as a small business owner you get the chance to make somebody feel seen and heard, just to notice somebody," she explains. "It's so important."
Check out Sweet Pickle Books on Instagram or visit in-person at 47 Orchard St. in NYC.